North Lincolnshire's economic ambition wows Westminster

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 28 Nov 2018

Ambitious plans have been laid out in Westminster for ensuring North Lincolnshire succeeds after Brexit.

The local authority claims that if fully realised, the plans outlined in the House of Lords could create 14,000 new jobs and pump £721 million into the economy.

A ten point plan, previewed with local business leaders in October, calls for creating a fifth Humber port and free trade zone, improving road and rail links and boosting broadband coverage.

Transport links in addition to the transformation of the fallow Able Marine Energy Park to thriving quaysides, as witnessed with neighbour Immingham, are also a key focus. 

The east-to-west rail connectivity should be improved and north-to-south road connectivity should be transformed, according to the plan.

Watch the launch video here:

Calls are also included for the manufacturing and engineering supply chain hub to continue growing and to diversify the chemical and energy sector.  

British Steel’s role as a potential Heathrow logistics hub is seen as a conduit to the former, creating a path to remotely serve other major national infrastructure projects such as HS2 and Hinkley Point. 

Read more: £15m rail scheme will allow Britain to 'embrace Brexit opportunities' - Northern Powerhouse Minister

Council leader Rob Waltham said: “We’re ambitious about the future of North Lincolnshire, and we recognise that by working with our businesses and the Government we can become a major contributor to the UK economy. We want more growth and higher paid jobs in our area and by developing our key sectors and improving the infrastructure, we can continue to deliver for our residents.

“Through this innovative thinking and diversifying our economy, we’re laying the foundations for sustainable jobs and a stable economy for generations to come.”

Big space in the right place... Able Marine Energy Park, which so far has only attracted car handling operations, with no quayside as yet developed. Picture: Google Maps. 

Other barriers that have been identified for businesses to overcome are broadband and phone coverage. The plan calls for improved superfast broadband coverage and better 4G and 5G phone coverage.

Tourism could also play a key part in the area’s future if plans to seek recognition for the North Lincolnshire Wolds as an area of outstanding natural beauty succeed. 

The ongoing Scunthorpe town centre and market town regeneration will also play an important part in the post-Brexit future.

The plan was launched in the House of Lords by Baroness Liz Redfern, immediate former council leader, and Councillor Waltham, her successor, with 50 local businesses represented too, from the 100-plus that have backed the strategy. 

Read more: SHIIP sets sail as South Humber brand aims to bring in the business

Nic Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe, said: “It went very well. There was a very strong gathering of stakeholders from across business and other walks of life, joining MPs and Baroness Redfern, who hosted the event.

“It was a very positive event showcasing the North Lincolnshire area, and a good start to the conversation that needs to be had about how we celebrate the really good stuff hat is going on as well as attracting further investment for a strong future built out of our present and past.

“I think the 10 ideas for taking North Lincolnshire forward are a really good starting point to drive things on. The key is this is the beginning of a process, not the end, and everyone realises that.”

Politicians address the gathering at the House of Lords, with, from left, Nic Dakin, Baroness Redfern, Martin Vickers, Andrew Percy and Rob Waltham. 

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers represents the area of North Lincolnshire where the port and trade zone could be developed, at North Killingholme.

He said: "It was a very good event, well attended. It never does any harm to showcase an area in Westminster and I think it was a useful event and the council has put together a good document that can be a foundation for the various representations being made to government about a whole host of issues in the area. 

"It highlighted the need for improved transport links, and the key thing is that it was well attended." 

One business represented was Moulded Fibre Products Ltd, the Flixborough Industrial Estate producer of pulp-based packaging and products for the medical sector. In five years the business has gone from a new-start up to employing 120 people, with £10 million invested and more to come.

James Gallacher, managing director, said: “It was tremendous. I was impressed by the development plan and I’m fully behind it and fully supportive of it. I think it was a success, with a lot of support and a lot of weight behind it.

“We’ve gone from nothing to build a second factory, with some quality support, and we are now looking at a new site for a third factory. We’ve invested £10 million and we are not stopping there.”

Moulded Fibre Products Ltd managing director James Gallacher has full confidence in the strategy. 

Delighted with how it went, and with the united approach from the three MPs whose constituencies cover the entire local authority area, Simon Green, executive director for commercial at North Lincolnshire Council, said: “It is a reflection of where we have come from in the last couple of years. The businesses, having faith in what we are doing, giving a vote of confidence in the direction we are doing in. We have consulted and listened to businesses in order to take this work forward and it is all good stuff.”

Aware of the presence of advisors to government departments in the room, and comparing and contrasting to the neighbouring Grimsby Town Deal pilot, the man who had led on the work said: “We have ideas articulated in there, and some have already started. It is all about working in collaboration, and asking for direction and some devolution. It is not a basket of asks from government. It is saying ‘this is the direction’. If it is supported it gives us what we need to change North Lincolnshire for the better over the coming years.  We are not gong to deliver overnight, but things are moving.”

He pointed to the agreement with North Lindsey College and the University of Lincoln to deliver 1,500 university-level places at the Civic Centre he is currently based in on Ashby Road, and the works in the town centre and at Lincolnshire Lakes.

“It is really key to not just ask for a shed load of money, we know a blank cheque won’t be forthcoming. We want to work together, collaborate and manage asks that are thematic and schematic.”  

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